A Way of the Heart: the Spirituality of the Apostleship of Prayer
(An excerpt from Document 1: A pathway with Jesus in apostolic readiness, describing the Apostleship of Prayer renewal, Rome, December 3, 2014)
The spiritual content of the Apostleship of Prayer (AP) and its formation program is presented as a school of the heart. In nine steps this pathway leads us to identify with the mind, heart and projects of Jesus. The Scripture and other quotations in each paragraph tell of God’s unlimited love for each one of us and for all humankind. In prayerful silence and in awe should they be received, for they speak of our history with Him. We are invited to live a personal love covenant with the Risen One, and to offer daily our readiness to collaborate with Him in his mission, as his apostles. We are put to the service of the Church and sent out to make God’s compassionate love present in the world. These pages intend to give a unified vision of the AP and of its interior pathway, inviting us to be part of this worldwide prayer network.
1. In the beginning there was Love
- I have loved you with everlasting love… (Jeremiah 31:3) Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands… (Isaiah 49:15)
- This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son… (1John 4:10)
- God chose us in Christ before the world was made. (Ephesians 1:4) Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)
The first and most enduring word in our life of faith is the Father’s everlasting love. This is what he is continuously saying to us and what we fathom in all he does for us each day: I love you. It is his essence,
“God is love” (1 John 4:8); he cannot not love us. LOVE is the way in which the Lord looks at us always, regardless of the course our life has taken--even if we have strayed away from him because of our sin. His love is unconditional and notwithstanding. It is the principle and the foundation of our spiritual way. Our life starts by his love, is sustained by it, and one day will be received by that love. To acknowledge his love gives us the chance to love him in return.
2. The human heart, restless and needy
- God, you are my God, I pine for you; my heart thirsts for you, as a land parched, dreary and waterless. (Psalm 63:1)
- Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. (Psalm 130:1)
- Blessed are the poor in heart, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
- Where have you hidden, beloved, and left me moaning? … (Saint John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle)
- You made us for yourself, oh Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you. (Saint Augustine, Confessions)
We yearn for happiness and seek it in a multitude of ways. God gave us the capacity to love and to live generously. But many times we feel poor and lost, burdened with frustrations and deep desires, unable to solve our personal crisis and find inner peace. A pathway of faith, prayer and life for seekers, for those in spiritual need and for all who desire to receive Jesus Christ in their hearts is proposed here. It is the way of the humble, where our weakness of heart will not be a hindrance, but rather, our greatest asset, for the encounter with a God who leans toward the poor.
3. In a broken world
- God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
- My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13)
- People will stagger from sea to sea, will wander from the north to the east, searching for the Lord’s word, but will not find it. (Amos 8:12)
- Wake, Lord! Why are you asleep? Awake! Do not abandon us for good. Why do you turn your face away, forgetting that we are poor and harassed? (Psalm 44:23-24)
- He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. (John 1:11)
We contemplate in admiration the beauty of our world and the great deeds accomplished by the human mind throughout history. But the world we share is wounded by painful contradictions that cause death and suffering. Life and love are often suffocated by violence and selfishness. The weak and vulnerable are crushed by the boots of the powerful. Natural resources are depleted. There is too much sadness and loneliness. However, in the cry for peace and justice, we hear the Father’s voice calling us to return to him. We have walked away from the paths of the Lord and from his project for humanity.
4. The Father sends his Son to save
- See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19)
- I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians… (Exodus 7:3-8)
- I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I myself took them by the arm… I was leading them with human ties, with leading-strings of love. (Hosea 11:3-4)
- God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
- The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26)
- This is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son. (John 3:16)
- The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
The Father has not forsaken us in this broken world. He has spoken of his love many times and in various ways through the prophets, and now, in these final times he has spoken to us by his Son made man, Jesus, the Christ (cf. Hebrews 1:1). In Him, the Father has joined our history to his own history in order to restore creation and heal our wounded humanity. In Him, who gave his life for us and whom the Father rose from the dead, he has forgiven our sins. In Him, God’s passionate love comes forth, determined to save us. With Him we learn to recognize the Spirit of God working in this world, bringing forth something new, even in the midst of suffering and difficulties.
5. He calls us his friends
- I have called you by your name, you are mine. Do not be afraid… since I regard you as precious, since you are honored and I love you. (Isaiah 43: 1 and 4)
- Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. These he called apostles… (Mark 3:13-14)
- I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
- Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper… (John 21:20)
- And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
- Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
- Whoever wishes to come with me has to be content with the same food I eat, and the drink, and the clothing which I wear, and so forth. So too each one must labor with me during the day, and keep watch in the night… (Saint Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises 93)
Jesus Christ calls us his friends and invites us to a personal and intimate covenant of love with him. He is alive to intercede for us, actively drawing us to him. He sees us as a precious treasure of his heart. Friendship with him will make us see the world with his eyes, we will be one with his joys and sufferings, and we will offer ourselves to work with him for our brothers and sisters. He is always with us and shall be until the end of age.
6. Christ abides in us
- On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. (John 14:20)
- … And we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. (John 14:23)
- Remain in me, as I remain in you… As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. (John 15: 4 and 9)
- …Yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me. (Galatians 2:20)
- Do you not realize that you are a temple of God with the Spirit of God living in you? (1Corinthians 3:16-17)
- As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)
- …and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17)
- We are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into his image (2Corinthians 3:18)
Out of his unlimited love for us, God desires to inhabit our hearts. Jesus left this surprising promise to his disciples before his death. He wants to dwell in each one of us. Saint Paul gives witness to this by saying it is no longer he, but Christ living in him. This is the ultimate horizon towards which the Spirit leads us in our life of faith. He seeks to conform the Christian to Christ in body, soul and spirit. We long for this, and we ask for this with a humble heart, knowing we will never accomplish it through our own efforts. We believe this conformation with Christ is given to us in a privileged way through the Eucharist. Christ gives himself to us through his Body and his Blood, molding our hearts to his own Heart, so we can be and act as Him.
7. We offer our lives along with Him
- The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26)
- This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. … She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood. (Mark 12:43-44)
- And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
- I am the Lord’s servant, let it happen to me as you have said. (Luke 1:38)
- I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
- Here I am, I have come to do your will (Hebrews 10:9)
- Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me, to you oh Lord I return it. All is yours, dispose of it wholly, according to your will. Give me your love and your grace, for this is sufficient for me. (Saint Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises 234)
To come closer to Christ leads us to give our lives for others, as He did. We learn that in spite of our weakness and limitations, our life is useful to others. Knowing ourselves loved, chosen, and inhabited by Him dignifies us, fills us with gratitude, and enables us to respond to so much good received by offering our own life in apostolic readiness. We offer it moving against our selfishness and laziness that make vain God’s work in us. He invites us to comply generously to his call, as did Mary of Nazareth. He does not want to save us or change the world without us. Even if I may consider my offering meaningless, it will be made useful to others because the Father joins it to the life and Heart of his Son, who laid down his life for us on the cross. We come closer to the world’s suffering as we are put with Jesus, and we will strive to respond as He did. We tell the Father our readiness to collaborate with his Son through a prayer of self offering. We are at the same time humbly praying to the Holy Spirit that we may cease to obstruct his work in us. Through the Eucharist we are inspired and nourished in a special way, for there we find the perfect offering of Christ to the Father and a model for our own life-offering.
8. A mission of compassion
- He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1)
- Never turn your face from the poor, and God will never turn his from you. (Tobit 4:7)
- Make your own the heart of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
- Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, "I do will it. Be made clean." (Mark 1:41)
- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. (Luke 4:18)
- Contemplate how the Three Divine Persons were looking upon the whole extent and space of the earth, filled with human beings. (Saint Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises 102) […] The first Point is, to see the various persons: and first those on the surface of the earth, in such variety, in dress as in actions: some white and others black; some in peace and others in war; some weeping and others laughing; some well, others ill; some being born and others dying, etc. (ibid. 106)
God, the Father of Jesus and our Father, wishes to make his compassion present in the world in and through us, his disciples. We are invited to make our own the Father’s loving gaze upon humanity and to act with the Heart of Jesus Christ. We are sent out to the margins of human life in different ways, together with his Son. We are sent to the places where men and women are suffering injustice, to help heal and support the brokenhearted. Even if we are physically constrained or limited by illness, and even if we feel incapable of changing the unjust structures of society, we participate of this mission making ours God’s gaze of compassion towards our brothers and sisters. We can convey it to others, since we ourselves have been graced by God’s compassion. It is our way of giving love in return to his love for us (reparation). We go beyond the boundaries of the Church, for the Spirit of Jesus is where compassion is. Through both prayer and concrete actions, we can join people from different cultures and religious traditions, people open to this Spirit, and work to relieve the suffering of those most in need.
9. A world-wide network of prayer and service attentive to the needs of humanity
- No peace for you, as you keep the Lord’s attention! And give him no peace either … until saving justice dawns like a bright light, and salvation like a blazing torch. (Isaiah 62:1.6-7)
- Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? […] The Lord said, “If I find fifty [or forty, or thirty, or twenty, or ten] righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” (Genesis 18,22-33)
- All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:14)
- You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
- After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. (Lk 10:1)
- Peace be with you! As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. (John 20:21)
The Apostleship of Prayer is a worldwide prayer network to the service of the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions. These intentions are seen as actual challenges for humanity and for the Church, as they express the Holy Father’s concerns in today’s world. We want them to orient our action and our prayer during that month.
This network is formed by those who make themselves available to collaborate in Christ’s mission through the daily offering of their lives, in any place or situation they may be. The call to the mission is the fire that makes us apostles sent from the heart of the Father to the heart of the world.
Among those first invited to be part of this network are Catholics from different countries and cultures, and from diverse spiritual families. The AP puts the richness of its diversity at the service of Church unity. Others are also invited to be in this network in different ways: the challenges implied in the Pope’s intentions open us to collaboration with other Christians and with all the other who work for greater love and justice in this world.